As the time approaches to kick off the 2015 hunting season with the start of dove season, this year will be bittersweet. I lost a very dear friend (my step-father Gerald Pobst) this past month. For the last 29 years he made sure I had a place to hunt doves. Oh I know, I always had a place to hunt on the home farm or a relative's land or another farmers land however, unknowingly to most people Gerald took great pleasure in my excitement to dove hunt in Southeast MO. You see I believe it is this yearly event that brought us closer together as a step father and son and as friends.
I will begin with a story about the younger Pobst brothers out by Vanduser, MO, back in the day.
There use to be a huge stand of pine trees on some property about 3 miles from the home farm, back off the road. Gerald use to tell me that he and his brothers and others use to shoot hundreds of doves each year out there by those pine trees. The secret was this is the place where the doves roosted and it helped that the pine trees were surrounded by corn and or milo fields.
So it did not matter if you had a 12 gauge full choke or 20 gauge single shot or 16 gauge pump, you were going to get a limit of doves most likely. I guess for many years the Pobst brothers and others hunted there and it was a yearly tradition.
Over the years as the Pobst brothers got older and had their own families they sorta fell out of the tradition of dove hunting together at those pine trees down a few miles from the home farm. Eventually the land land was cleared of most of the pine trees and the land sold to different folks over the years. The big area of pine trees would never again be the hot spot for doves.
For many years hunters would call Gerald to hunt the home farm and he said sure just "pick up your shells and stay out of my beans". However most hunters would not abide by the rules so Gerald did not allow any more hunters out on his property.
Some years later January of 1986, Gerald and my mom married. Little did I know how a close friendship would be born out of something so trivial as a dove.
Some months later in that same year as September approached I asked Gerald "where should I hunt opening day of dove season." He laughed at me and said "Can you shoot?" He was always making fun of me for missing a bird or ribbing me about one of my labs Hank or Remy. He told me to go out to the home farm back by the the pine trees located on the south end of the farm and there should be a ton of birds out there. Low and behold he was right. Later that morning he pulled up in his truck after getting the combines ready and asked me how I did and I said "limited out". He just laughed and said "you sure you know how to count, the game warden will get you for lying?". That was my friend.
This is a picture of those same pine trees on the home farm I have hunted for 29 years. Gerald's father planted these pine trees with him many years ago. This year of course it is all beans and no layout, so I will move over a couple of fields and will hunt another family members field.
Those pine trees were very special to Gerald. Mom's Prissy and Precious Pomeranian's have a special little grave site there.
You may not know it but Gerald loved those little dogs very much. He had a soft spot for them.
In 1987 I brought my fraternity brothers home from college to dove hunt. Imagine 8 young men in our living room in sleeping bags and even worst imagine feeding them. Mom and Gerald were happy to have so many boys in the house.
One of my fraternity brothers asked Gerald where we were going to hunt. As usual Gerald knew where the doves were and we had a great time. Yes, we stayed out of the beans and picked up our shells. However one of my fraternity brothers got caught shooting out of a moving truck, $100 dollar fine, Gerald was none to happy with him or me. Years later he said he did get mad but deep down he thought it was funny that my fraternity brother got caught and had to pay the fine. That was my friend.
For years after that I always made it home for opening day of dove season. Yes, I even forsake Mizzou's football home opener for opening day of dove season. Everybody knows at the Lot G Tailgate that Tom is dove hunting and wont be there.
What is so special that I would miss the opening Mizzou football game? Answer, opening day dove season in Southeast Missouri, a tradition one taught to me by my friend.
So as the years rolled by I would call my mom before dove season and asked how was the corn or if we were shelling yet, little did I know that Gerald had already been scouting. Mom told me he stayed out late at different fields or went out early to watch for doves. He always seemed to making sure he knew where the doves where. Gerald always knew which fields on the home farm were shelling corn or he would call one of his friends who was shelling corn to see if I could hunt. Some years no one had any shelled corn by Sept 1st, but Gerald always knew where the layout ground was so I would have a place to hunt.
Last year 2014 was one such year where no one had any shelled corn, but Gerald knew his brother Donald had layout ground on a hill side. Yes, I limited out twice in this spot.
My mom told me a few years back that Gerald loved for me to come home to dove hunt. He always told Mom and me that he was always concerned there might not be doves or a place to hunt. I always laughed when I heard that because I knew better. Gerald was the "dove whisperer".
I guess me getting excited about coming home for dove season sorta reminded him of a tradition he once had many years ago. Although now it was a tradition between me and my friend.
So many times over the years he would pull up about 8 am during the morning hunt after getting the combines ready or watering and just sit back in his truck and watch me shoot and comment or come down to my dove blind and again comment on my dog or shooting. That was my friend.
As you can see a view from the blind with my mojo doves on 10 foot poles. He used to laugh at me until he saw doves coming in just to light on the polls.
So as next week approaches for opening day Sept 1. I will again be home to make opening day dove season. Depending on how much corn is shelled on the home farm, I may or may not hunt the home farm. Never fear though, I always have a place to hunt. Gerald hooked me up with people to call if I wanted to hunt somewhere else where they shelled corn.
I will never be lost. He will always be with me. My friend drew this map just for me over 15 years ago. It is a map of all the fields from the ditch dump to the home farm. He wanted me to know right where to hunt. Funny thing is it is also good to know whose property you are on.
This year will be different, my friend will not be driving up in his truck nor will he comment in his own smart ass way about my shooting or my dog.
"Tom, what the hell were you aiming at?"
"Tom you sure that dog can retrieve looks like to me all he can retrieve is a sandwich"
When I get up on opening day of dove season and look at the kitchen table at Mom's, I will not see his boots, watch and wallet he laid out before he went to bed. No this year, my friend will already be out there on the farm waiting on me. He will still be watching me, just from a better vantage point.
I am sure he will turn to Bill Pruett with that smile and say "Watch this he is going to miss that one flying over his head and his dog will just look at him like why did you not shoot?" That is my friend.
Gerald will be with me for the rest of my life every time I hunt. This year when I shoot my first dove and Remy goes and retrieves it, I will pause and remember my friend at that time and place.
Love you Gerald, See you in the field.